Disney's The Jungle Book hit theaters last week, and has been met with both fan and critical acclaim. The general consensus is that it's a heartfelt reboot that's beautiful to look at and sets "a new standard for CGI." Even though it looks and feels like a live-action film, and its main character is, in fact, a human boy, most of the movie was made using key-frame animation — a more advanced version of drawing, if you will.
As Kristopher Tapley of Variety writes, The Jungle Book will "likely remain the frontrunner" for the best visual effects Oscar all year. However, "should the studio want to get greedy," the film could also be inserted into the animated feature race. That's because a majority of the scenes were shot in a downtown Los Angeles studio with animated environments and supporting characters painted in.
Here's how the Academy classifies an animated feature film:
"An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of more than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters' performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture's running time."
By these rules, it's hard to argue The Jungle Book isn't qualified as an animated film. As Tapley points out, it's "not unlike Avatar" in that such a massive chunk of its visuals were made through animation, and although Avatar didn't compete in the category, in theory, it could have. However, in a traditional sense, it's far from the painstaking hand-drawn animation that went into less realistic-looking classics of the past. Disney certainly knows all about those.
Granted, if The Jungle Book ends up nominated for a best animated feature film Oscar, the controversy will be nothing compared to what's happened with #OscarsSoWhite. Still, it's an interesting discussion to have now that animation is clearly so advanced we can't even tell what's real and what isn't.
In case you haven't seen it, here's the trailer for the film:
Cover image: Disney Movie Trailers via YouTube